Think back to a trip away from home in the 1970's. No e-mail, no internet, no way to cheaply call home. People actually sent letters!
Think even further back to the 1900's. Brown leather trunks adorned with stickers from around the world announced you as a traveler. Wistfully, you said good-bye to your home and embarked on an epic, and isolated, adventure. You were lucky to even get letters.
The internet has totally changed travel. This simply cannot be overstated. Suddenly people are informed about the world in general, able to instantly "tweet" a photo of their exotic lunch to friends, create a blog to share their stories, and wish someone they met in a hostel happy birthday on Facebook. While this new technology is helpful to all travelers, it has a particular benefit to expats. Networking can not only help you keep in contact with those back home, but can help to replace or rebuild support systems and become established in a host country. Benefits range from setting up business contacts to finding a trusted babysitter to just making friends. People are connecting on a whole new level- where leaving home, no longer means you completely left.
It seems like almost everyone is on Facebook. Not only is everybody using it, it was the backdrop to one of 2010's biggest movies, "The Social Network". This giant among sites has more than 500 million active users. Facebook allows anyone who declares themselves to be at least 13 years old to become a registered user. It started on college campuses, but today's users span all age groups.
Users create personal profiles, which they trick out with photos, quotes, and "likes" of bands, movies, and interest groups. People connect to friend's profiles, creating a web of connections with the larger Facebook network. Users can also "chat" through messaging to friends currently online.
As the largest social network, this site practically guarantees you will be able to keep in touch with friends and family back home, as well as offering opportunities to make friends in your new location. Easy-to-use and navigate, it is also an excellent resource for posting pictures and videos to share with friends and find out about events in your area.
Facebook has dedicated expat groups, like Easy Expat. Using the search engine at the top of the site, you can use terms like "expat", "German", "French", "English expats", or any combo that specifies your interest. You can also search by location to find groups with similar interests. Want to play soccer in Mexico City? You can find a group for that on Facebook.
Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service that has created its own language. "Tweets" are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author's profile page and delivered to the author's subscribers, who are known as followers. It is similar to texting (SMS) all of your friends at once. It can be used on all compatible external applications (such as for smart phones). A social tool to keep in contact with friends and family, it has become so common place to now even used by business contacts. It is estimated that Twitter has 190 million users, generating 65 million tweets a day and handling over 800,000 search queries per day.
Twitter is both social and informative. Not only will you be kept up-to-date on friends and family, occasionally you hear news before it even hits the mainstream (Michael Jackson's death broke over Twitter). It is also possible to keep abreast of expat news, like on EasyExpat's twitter account.
Photo sharing sites allow users to post images and videos and access a vast online community. It has never been easier to store and share photos. In moments, a series of photos of a breathtaking sunset over the Italian Riviera can be uploaded, captioned, and shared with friends. Some of the most prominent sites are Flickr, Photobucket, Webshots, Picasa or the popular video sharing site Youtube.
Provides an easy way to share images with those you love. Also an excellent tool for honing your photography skills as there are forums and guides. Easy Expat has a group of expat photos that you can contribute to at http://www.flickr.com/groups/easyexpat/pool/.
Various sites offer the ability to "chat" with other users. Originally this meant typed messages that would instantly pop up on each others screens. In recent years, this has expanded to being able to voice and video chat. With service through the internet, it is cheap, easy, and better then a phone call.
Skype is far and away the best piece of technology as users can message, talk, or video chat with other internet users for free. For a fraction of competitor's fees you can also make calls to land lines and cell phones. Other useful services include goggle talk, windows live messenger, meebo, and more.
Easiest and cheapest way to stay in contact with people back home that are internet savvy AND those that aren't. Ability to call people's land lines or cell phones is invaluable for those people you want to keep in contact with that do not use newer technology.
The word "blog" was created as a blend of the terms "web" and "log". This particular type of website is usually maintained by an individual and seeks to express a person's point of view, share stories, provide a descriptions of events, or feature someone's work. Most blogs allow for readers to interact by leaving comments, voting, or asking questions. Some people allow ads to appear on their blog which can supplement an income, or become a full-time salary.
When an expat lives their social network, that may leave a lot of people to keep in contact with. A blog is an easy way to share stories, pictures, and videos with a broad group of people. Friends and family can check in at their leisure, discovering what is going on in your life. One of the best thing about a blog is the ability to personalize everything from the design to the content.
EasyExpat offers hundreds of expat blogs at BlogExpat.com. This is a valuable resource as visitors can read the stories from other expatiates and gain a better understanding and knowledge of specific places, travel tips, and advice on how to survive as an expat. If you are feeling adventurous, you can start your own blog with your own tips, tricks, and stories.
As described, the world of technology is an aid to travelers and expats. However, it is also important to step back from these devices and embrace the climate you are living in. If you spend all of your time staying connected with friends back home, you will miss amazing expat experiences. Technology should allow you enhance your life. So log-on, research, and then log-off and explore.